THE CLEANSING OF GARIWERD
The Point went to Gariwerd to look at the rise of white supremacist and extremist groups operating in Australia. On the January 26 long weekend this year, the area - the Grampians in regional Victoria — was invaded by masked white supremacists.
Gunaikurnai man Troy McDonald told the program: “In this vicinity, 30 of those white supremacists came and started their hateful chants. It was a really tough thing for a lot of us to see that, when it was reported.
Because if you are coming here, this is not a hateful environment. People don't come here generally on a holiday or a walk to express a hate agenda and that’s what they’ve done.
“We've got 30 people up here chanting hate narratives, doing Heil Hitler salutes and behaving in a manner, which even through their own cowardice, they have to be masked up because they don't want to be seen, indicates to me that they are thugs.”
The group plastered walking trail signs with posters and chanted "white power." They then moved to nearby Halls Gap. Police said they could not act because the men were not committing any crime.
Human rights lawyer Jidah Clark, who lives in Gariwerd, said: “What I heard is they were defacing rocks with spray-painting, swastikas on some of the walks … it is an act of racial hatred.”
Yaraan Couzens Bundle was in Gariwerd when the men came to town.
At the lake where the invaders had burned a cross, Yaraan conducted a cleansing ceremony.
“This is our church, our sacred place and they came here deliberately to ruin that energy, mess that sacredness. It is really important to not give them energy,” she said.
“We are here. And we are never going to go away. And we've been here since the first sun rise. And this is our sacred place and we're going to be here forever.”
Chris Cuneen, a Professor of criminology at the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney, said the rise of extremist groups was a concern.
“There is a real concern around potential for violence.”
Federal Labor MP Anne Aly, who sits on a parliamentary committee investigating extremism, said clear messages needed to be sent that extremism would not be tolerated. “Changing our laws. It involves proscription .. it also involves us changing the ways in which we talk about this kind of stuff. These groups are very good at skirting on the edges of lawfulness and lawlessness."
“I CAN’T BREATHE”
The Point spoke to the parents of Wiradjuri man, Bailey Mackander, outside the inquest into his 2019 death after falling from a wall at Gosford Hospital despite being schooled and in the presence of two prison officers.
The inquest had watched CCTV footage and heard phone recordings of Mr Mackander, 20, saying, ”I can't breathe" while vomiting in his cell, while an officer said, “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
“Watching the CCTV footage of my son being treated inhumanely, was one of the hardest things I have had to go through in my life,” said his father David.
“The way they treated him, left him begging for help, walking over him when he looked unconscious on the ground. No shoes, no blanket, no pillow, throwing water up against the camera and letting it come down and wet him and just stepping over him and closing the door behind him, no help.
“Gut-wrenching. It absolutely made me feel angry and sick inside.”
His mother Tracy said: “I walked out of the courtroom because I couldn't bear so see my son being treated in such a way. It's absolutely heartbreaking. And soul-destroying what they actually did to him.”
SACRED SITE VICTORY
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley joined the program to discuss her decision to protect a culturally significant site on Wahluu, or Mount Panorama, where plans to build a go-kart track have been stopped with an order from the minister.
The declaration from the minister means the protections take effect from Wednesday May 5 and will last for a decade.
Yanhadarrambal Jade Flynn said: “I feel like she was very respectful of what we are trying to achieve as traditional owners to protect our sacred sites and she talked about the legislation and about the intangible parts of the legislation that look after the intangible heritage of the place.”
Minister Ley told The Point: “I decided that there was sufficient connection, culturally, historically, in terms of the songlines, the Dreaming stories and the real, spiritual nature of the location for the traditional owners, particularly the women of the Wiradjuri tribe. That was an important connection for me to personally make to understand what the significance was.”
Wiradjuri traditional owner Werribe Leanna Carr-Smith walked the minister across the area to explains its significance.
“There are no words in the English dictionary that can explain about how I feel about this. I have learned, I have known this story for over 25 years and I have learned from my he from my elders. This place is extremely for Wiradjuri women.”
THE ELDERS OLYMPICS
After being cancelled like every other sporting event during the pandemic in 2020, The Elders Olympics have returned in 2021. The Point host Shahni Wellington went to the Nambucca Valley on NSW north coast to witness the event.
As she reported: “An event where medical clearances are required and bodies are put on the line!”
The competition has been running for more than 20 years, growing from just two teams to hundreds of athletes.
“To see so many people, it is really an inspiration. They have had their difficulties and everything else and what have you, but they still are back and here,” said one competitor.
Graeme Russell from Port Stephens, who team has had two victories at the Games in nine years. said: “You know to see faces that are still there when I first came here in 2012, they’re still here, it is unbelievable. We have a lot of fantastic Kooris in this country. It's magnificent.”
THE KOORI MAIL TURN 30
After 30 years and 700 editions, The Koori Mail is celebrating its 30th birthday and Keira Jenkins visited the team in Lismore.
Trevor Kapeen, Koori Mail chairperson, told Jenkins: “It’s our paper for our people. It is not my paper, not my board's paper, it’s not the owners’ paper. It is Aboriginal Australia's paper.”
Naomi Moran, general manager, started at the paper aged 14 in 1998.
“We are sharing the stories of our people that are being told in the most genuine and authentic way. We are responsible for the truth-telling of our people and our communities.”
She is one of many staff members with long histories at the publication, which has developed from the old-fashioned print model to have a digital presence and is expanding even further.
“We are still there, digitally, we are still there with the print for the people out in the bush who don't have internet and everything else,” said Kapeen.
“Now the milestone is setting up our podcast, it was the furthest thing from my mind. I never thought we would achieve it.”
FIRST NATIONS DRAG QUEEN
Indigenous drag queen Jojo Zaho had a memorable if short-lived run on RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under this week, and spoke to The Point about her experience.
“You will always be drag race royalty. Now sashay away,” Ru Paul told Jojo after her loss.
Jojo replied: “I want to say thank you so much for this opportunity and to give me a chance to represent my culture in the best-possible way I can.”
Jojo - John Ridgeway from Kurri Kurri when not in drag - told reporter Nathan Simon the transformation to Jojo could take up to six hours.
“I think when first got in to drag I was probably 10 when my sisters dressed me up, much to my protest — nah. The first time I did it as an adult, it was probably 2015,” Jojo said.
“But what I love most about drag is I have terrible anxiety and panic attacks. I am pretty nervous most of the time but when I'm in drag I don't have any of that. It harnesses all the strongest points of you and who you are and puts them to the forefront. It almost kind of becomes a shield in a way.”
DESIGNER JACOB NASH
Jacob Nash, head designer at Bangarra Dance Theatre, has been appointed Creative Artist in Residence at the Sydney Festival and spoke to Keira Jenkins about his new role.
Nash said he would continue in the spirit of former festival director Wesley Enoch.
“It grows out of my relationship with the festival and Wesley,” Nash said.
“He was so ahead of the curve and also what knowing what needed to happen on a festival front to program First Nation work, more of it, help create people's careers, give opportunity and for all of those people's stories and our stories to get the support that they need to put it on the stages around the country and the artwork that sits on our walls and the public art,” he said.
“His legacy, I think will go on, not only for the Sydney festival but for all the festivals around the country.”